Professor of the Week: Da-ka-xeen Mehner
Name: Da-ka-xeen Mehner
How long have you been working at the university?
“This will be my third year.”
What do you like about teaching at the University?
“Well, I think really it’s about student experience and seeing how passing along techniques that students can use and come up with the most creative different pieces based on the same technique. That’s really fascinating and I just love seeing how people grab onto something new and really run with it.”
What are some of the qualities that you feel make a good student?
“Coming to class (laughs). And then just being present in class, I think that is very important. The students kind of zoning off in the back just aren’t engaged. Just being here and being engaged is the best thing for a student to do.”
What do you think makes a good professor?
“Well, I think the ability to communicate a given idea. But also being able to be there outside of the classroom experience, to help after hours, especially with the studio arts because there’s some hands-on training that has to be done. And the class period is just not enough time to get all those done.”
What do you want your students to take away from your class?
“Skills. I definitely want people to be comfortable with the carving tools we have in the studio. I want them to be fairly confident with working with wood and have a good design sense. We talk quite a bit about design before we even start carving.
I want them to be able to have a good skill set in carving and then also to be able to design their work, to be able to see something in three-dimension before you even start.”
What’s the best thing about teaching at UAF?
“One of the great things is the diversity of students. Last year, I had two students from Finland, along with a number of Alaska Native students, along with just a general number of students from the Fairbanks area, another student from Switzerland. Oh, and we have student from Japan that’s here this semester. It has this incredible diversity to the population. I really enjoy that, having everyone’s perspectives being represented on one classroom.”
What experience do you have in the field outside of the classroom?
“I went to the Institute of Native American Arts right after high school and studied there in Santa Fe, New Mexico, then finished at University of New Mexico, which also has a really large population of native students.
I kind of feel like I’ve been in the field my whole life. My mom has always done beadwork. I’ve got cousins that carve and uncles that are photographers. So, I feel art, Native art in particular, has always been a part of my life.”
What media do you work with ? You carve but you also play with digital photography and stuff like that, don’t you?
“Yes, I do. I do a lot of photography. I really enjoy image making but with the computer world, I feel removed from the process quite a bit. So, I still have to get my hands dirty again in the studio with carving or welding or working physically with my hands.”
What are some of your recent achievements?
“I had a solo show at the Alaska State Museum in Juneau over the last summer. I think that was from May to October. And then I’ll be having a show at the CN Gorman Museum at the University of California Davis this coming October. So, those are kind of my two big highlights I think.”
Where do you draw your inspiration from for your artwork?
“A quite of bit of inspiration is from historical objects from the Tlingit culture, and also a personal history that I try to bring out in the work. I think those are my two biggest influences or things that I draw upon.”
Do you have any favorite hobbies?
“Besides the photography and the carving, I guess something that isn’t art related that I really enjoy doing is going for walks and hiking. I’ve recently gotten a snowmachine and go out for snowmachine rides. I just try to get outside.”